This article is reprinted from the AARP Bulletin, January 2013, and was written by Beth Levine
If you want to protect your brain against the effects of aging, a brisk daily walk may do more for you than brain teaser puzzles or social activities, a new study finds.
Researchers with the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, studying nearly 700 people in their early 70s, found that those who were most physically active had less brain shrinkage than those who got less exercise. At the same time, social and intellectually challenging activities, like going to the museum, learning a new language or visiting friends, seemed to have no protective effect on brain changes.
The research, published in the journal Neurology, is part of a long-term study on aging that involves a group of participants born in 1936. Those involved in this study were given brain MRI scans at age 73. They also filled out questionnaires about their physical activity, ranking it on a six-point scale from " moving only in connection with necessary (household) chores" to "keep fit/heavy exercise or competitive sport several times per week" and rated how often they participated in 15 different leisure activities.
But don't throw out those brain teaser puzzles yet, says Thompson. They may still have a positive effect on the brain — just one that couldn't be measured by the type of scans the Scottish researchers used.